Heddle on UD on ID and OOL

Help, I'm in acronym hell! David Heddle, a devout Christian nuclear physicist who advocates cosmological ID (the strong anthropic principle) but is generally a critic of biological ID, has written a post responding to something Dembski said about Harvard's new origin of life research project. I agree with the post completely; in fact, it's something I could have written myself in most respects. In response to an announcement on the project, Dembski posted his usual excerpt with a sarcastic comment:

How much play do you think ID is going to get in Harvard's new origin of life initiative[?]

And Heddle rightly points out that the answer is "none" and that this answer is entirely justified.

In fact, Dembski is correct: the answer is none, because nothing is owed a "play" in scientific research, which self-organizes along a pecking order based on "put up or shut up." Dembski is preaching to his choir, one that tends to believe that research scientists view theists and theism as the enemy. This is false, as Dembski would know if he spent any length of time in an actual research environment. At least I hope that's his excuse--I hope he doesn't sing that "they hate us, they really hate us" tune knowing that it's a lie. At any rate, one of his great disservices to Christianity is that he is helping to make Science vs. Christianity a self fulfilling prophecy. He is doing his darndest to drive a wedge between the two--and many Christians, I fear, are taking the bait. Demonizing scientists is just another way that Dembski is very much like Ken Ham of AiG.

Perhaps, Mr. Dembski, if you care to make a testable prediction regarding Harvard's initiative they will give you some "play." In fact, I am willing to bet that if you can make a testable prediction from your theories and apply for research funding under this initiative that your proposal would be reviewed favorably. By all means, submit a proposal that states: My ID theory states that if you do this experiment: [fill in the blank] the result will be this: [fill in this blank too].

As it is, or at least as far as I know, ID makes no prediction beyond that of the theologian: Harvard's effort will fail to explain the origin of life. Though of interest, that's not a scientific prediction. Neither is its corollary: research into the origins question will only further demonstrate the implausibility of life starting by itself.

He is absolutely right, and it points up the core problem with the claim that ID is science. No matter how complex and scientific-sounding the various statements of its premise may be, the argument still comes down to this: science can't (yet) explain X, therefore God must have created X. This is not science, it's anti-science. And history has shown such arguments to be false every single time they've been offered in the past.

And while you're at Heddle's blog, you might want to read this post about Dembski booting him from his blog and from a private mailing list of ID advocates recently. The reasons are quite interesting. Like this:

I first got into trouble on the forum before Dembski was the moderator. Unaware that it was the third-rail of ID, I posted something mildly negative about young earth creationism. I soon found out that some members of the list are extremely sensitive about this topic. I also learned about the "big tent." The big tent is this: ID welcomes all views on the age of the earth. Furthermore, to prevent internal squabbles, the topic of the age of the earth is verboten.

Welcoming all views is reasonable--after all science (and this list is supposed to be about science) welcomes all views. But what science never does is place views "off limits." How, I asked in subsequent posts, can we be "about science" if a scientific topic, namely the age of the earth, is off the table? A handful of people replied by email (I flew below most everyone's radar on this list) to say they agreed with me, but on the list the argument against my position was that the age of the earth was not relevant in the domain of ID. I pointed out that for cosmological ID it is extremely relevant, since fine-tuning arguments make no sense for a YEC position--but shortly thereafter the thread was closed for discussion. (I didn't post much on this list, but I had a Ted Williams-like batting average for having my threads closed.)

Here's the thing: there is no such animal as a "big tent" (as the term is used on this list) in science. Science is the ultimate meritocracy. A fragile persona will not survive. Apart from a gentleman's agreement to treat young students with kid gloves--and even then only for a short while--nobody gets a free pass....Put more succinctly: there's no crying in science. You present your ideas--you defend them--and you try to persuade, but nothing is sacred.

What Heddle found out was that the ID movement isn't really about science at all, it's a PR effort. And in a PR effort, you don't alienate your supporters even if they are totally wrong about the subject your effort addresses. There's much more in that second post, I encourage you to read it. The tension within the ID camp between the "this is a big tent" position and the "but you can't say that" position is palpable and revealing. It appears from the emails he cites that claiming that the earth is 6000 years old is perfectly acceptable; questioning Dembski, on the other hand, is not.

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Heddles fall from Dembski's grace is a good yarn, memorialized at AtBC. Good for Heddle, his objectivity makes him ask 'those' questions.

Here's the thing: there is no such animal as a "big tent" (as the term is used on this list) in science. Science is the ultimate meritocracy. A fragile persona will not survive. Apart from a gentleman's agreement to treat young students with kid gloves--and even then only for a short while--nobody gets a free pass....Put more succinctly: there's no crying in science. You present your ideas--you defend them--and you try to persuade, but nothing is sacred.

Great quote, although I would have added in that in addition to it being a meritocracy, "Science is not a democracy". The majority is not the ultimate arbiter of truth and facts.

Cross Post on 'The panda's Thumb', Ed?

I give Heddle credit for this one. For all his bizarre and I do mean bizarre arguments he comes up roses on this one Why he supports cosmological ID and not biological is just stupifying to me but thats for another day. Today he merits kudos.

I think both forms of ID are on equal ground.

David got in some good licks before he was booted. He may have some odd and mind-bending theological views (he's a Calvinist) but he's right on the money when it comes to talking about ID.

I've argued with Heddle a few times on PT, but I do respect him for having a better command of facts and logic than other more vocal "Christians." (Many of his statements have been grossly misinterpreted by other PTers, but that's another issue.) If DembScot are banning him, he's gotta be right about something.

I also often find David Heddle's positions on religion bafflingly absurd, but this:

How, I asked in subsequent posts, can we be "about science" if a scientific topic, namely the age of the earth, is off the table?

Is a brilliantly put slam dunk. I forgive him for endorsing the worthless, circular fine-tuning arguments used for cosmological ID. Yes, it certainly is amazing that the shape of the

ID taking the age of the earth "off the table" for the sake of harmony reminds me of the way you never see the practitioners of contradicting theories on energy healing, higher consciousness, and the "true cause of all disease" arguing against each other at an altie "Wellness Fair" or symposium on New Age psi. It's all about being supportive of different views, any view, all views -- as long they fight "materialist science." Ideology in action, only mimicking science on the most superficial level, without the dynamic of conflict and contention.